Schnabel, a member of the ECB's Executive Board, said there's a growing risk of inflation taking hold, while downplaying the danger of rising coronavirus infections impeding the Eurozone's recovery.
Even as the future focus of monetary policy may shift away from asset purchases, the official in charge of market operations warned that an emergency contingency will still be needed just weeks before a major decision on stimulus.
"It's reasonable to believe that inflation will fall below our target of 2% in the medium term. The risks to inflation, however, are skewed to the upside," Schnabel said. “Uncertainty has increased with respect to the pace and extent of the decline” and “we must take this heightened uncertainty into account.”
Her comments come after months of worldwide market concern about inflation, and ahead of statistics next week that could show the Eurozone has reached a new high, with price hikes possibly reaching close to 6% in Germany. Meanwhile, the worsening pandemic has spurred Chancellor Angela Merkel to call for stricter activity restrictions.
"In parts of the Eurozone, we've recently seen an increase in Covid-19 infections and some containment efforts," Schnabel added. "In the short run, this is expected to have a moderating effect on activity, particularly in the contact-intensive services sector. However, I do not believe this will derail the overall recovery."
The current rise in consumer prices, partly due to rising energy costs and global supply disruptions, has sparked a debate among officials about how long it will last and what that means for moving beyond the crisis asset-purchase program, known as PEPP, which is worth 1.85 trillion euros ($2.1 trillion).
"It's critical to retain some optionality in times of tremendous uncertainty," Schnabel added. "I wouldn't pre-commit over a too long period of time. That would be a mistake."